Stress and anxiety aren’t exactly fun topics to write about, but I think that they are important to discuss openly, especially at a time when mental health is at an all time low.
Our fast paced lifestyles mixed with several environmental factors have left our generation feeling more stressed out than our ancestors did.
Chronic stress not only wreaks havoc on your mental health but on your physical health as well. Managing your stress is just as important (if not more) as eating healthy and taking care of your body.
Listed below are 7 effective ways to manage stress and anxiety:
1. Get Out Of Your Head
Sometimes when your thoughts are contributing to your stress and anxiety you need to get out of your head and separate yourself from them.
Most people will think of meditation when they think of separating from their thoughts and while meditation in any form is a great way to reduce stress, it’s not the only way to remove yourself from stressful thoughts.
You can instead perform a task that brings you away from worry. Whether that be journaling, yoga, walking or a creative project, you want to make sure you fully immerse yourself in it so that you’re not focusing on anything but that task.
2. Replace Negative Thoughts
Sometimes our stress and anxiety can stem from negative thinking patterns. These thinking patterns can be in the form of negative self-talk, self-blame, overreacting or catastrophising.
It’s usually not an event that stresses us out, but our thoughts about the event.
For example, if you get let go at work it may not be the actual event of losing your job that stresses you out but your thoughts surrounding the event.
You may think things like “I will not be able to pay my bills on time”, “I won’t be able to find another job quickly” or “I must be bad at my job”.
Identifying these thoughts as they come and replacing them with more positive thoughts will help to lower our stress levels and focus on a happier outcome.
You could replace the negative thoughts in the example above with “I will find a way to pay my bills on time”, “I will start my job search right away and find a new job quickly” and “I am great at my job and another company will appreciate my efforts”.
If you find it too hard to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones, try to at least replace them with more balanced thoughts.
An example of a balanced thought would be “I’m upset that I lost my job and accept that I may go through some tough times, but I will come out of this situation stronger and happier”.
3. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts
Stress and anxiety can be caused by thoughts and fears that something could potentially happen in the future but hasn’t yet.
Challenging these thoughts can help you to stay grounded in the present moment and to stop worrying.
You can do this by asking yourself what proof you have that supports the thought or fear you’re having and what proof you have that does not support it.
For example, if you’re afraid to tell somebody how you really feel about something because you think that they will react poorly ask yourself “do I have any proof to support my thought that they will react poorly? Do I have any proof that does not support that thought?”.
Proof that would support the thought would be this person having a history of overreacting. Proof that doesn’t support the thought would be this person having a history of being understanding and supportive.
Sometimes once we go through this exercise it helps us to see that a lot of the scenarios that we are worried about are not likely to unfold in the way that we’re afraid they will.
4. Recognize Physical Reactions To Stress
When we’re feeling stressed or anxious our body will usually have a physical reaction such as an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, clenched teeth or tensed muscles.
These reactions can become so frequent and automatic that we don’t even notice them. If we can learn to recognize these physical reactions as they are happening, we can consciously choose to reverse them – slow our breathing, relax our muscles, unclench our jaws.
Not only will doing this automatically help you to feel calmer but will also alert us to negative thinking and give us a chance to redirect those thoughts to more positive or balanced ones.
5. Let Yourself Feel Your Emotions
For a lot of people, suppressing and avoiding negative emotions has become a common occurrence.
While distracting yourself from these emotions may feel better in the short-term, it’s detrimental to your well-being in the long-term.
We need to let ourselves really feel our negative emotions in order to process them and let them go.
If we constantly avoid our negative emotions and try to bury them beneath the surface, those emotions will eventually pile up on each other until they all come bubbling to the surface and in my own experience, those buried emotions usually don’t present themselves in a healthy way.
When one comes up, let yourself really feel it so that you can process it and let it go. You might need to cry, scream or punch a pillow and that’s okay.
6. Move Your Body
Think about a time where you consciously tried to suppress an emotion – you probably felt tense in your throat, a tightness in your chest or a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Unprocessed emotions store themselves in our bodies and can cause tension in our muscles, fatigue, burnout and even sickness. Moving your body can help to release buried stress and tension.
Some great ways to get your body moving is to dance, do yoga, walk, jog, stretch or do some sort of workout.
7. Simplify “Self-Care” And Do It Everyday
We always hear that we need to make time for “self-care” and that’s usually marketed as taking a long bubble bath or going out to get a massage.
While these things are lovely and I do advocate for doing things like that for yourself on a regular basis, self-care doesn’t have to be complicated or planned ahead of time.
Practice self-care everyday by nourishing your body with healthy foods, resting when you need it, and taking time to do something that you love even if it’s only reading a book for 10 minutes.
I hope this has given you some new tools to help you manage your stress!
What ways do you manage stress and anxiety?